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Victory for Beaufort land conservation, 500 acres saved. Why is the military helping?

South Wimbee Creek (Plantation Services/Released)

High-density housing development will be off limits on another 500 acres of land on South Wimbee Creek in the Dale area north of Beaufort resulting from the creation of a conservation easement that protects not only the ACE Basin but also military flight operations.

The $2.2 million conservation easement covers the 488-acre “Bowers Farm,” located north of a runway at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort (MCAS).

“Protecting Bowers Farm protects the air station’s military mission by ensuring unobstructed training for our pilots and aircrew,” Col. Mark Bortnem, commanding officer at MCAS Beaufort, said in a news release.

The easement also prevents neighborhood housing development development along a mile stretch of of Wimbee Creek frontage.

And it brings the total amount of protected lands along Whitsell Road to more than 9,000 acres. That corridor is located in the ACE Basin, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast. It’s named for the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers, which meet at St. Helena Sound.

Kate Schaefer of the Beaufort-based Open Land Trust credits cooperation between land conservation groups, public agencies and landowners for the preservation of the land in the corridor.

“Few other places have the synergy between high natural resource values and increased military and economic value, so it’s been a great place for conservation investment,” Schaefer told the Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet.

The Department of Defense and the Open Land Trust will partner in holding the easement.

Raleigh West, executive director of the South Carolina Conservation Bank, said the easement protecting Bowers Farm “solidifies the conservation corridor north of the MCAS.”

West called the deal an innovative use of conservation “to achieve benefits for both ecological and national defense purposes.”

The bank, a state agency created in 2002 with a mission of conserving significant lands, paid $500,000 for the easement while the DOD contributed $1.7 million. The DOD also credited the Bowers family for a “bargain-sale land donation.”

The family will continue to use the property for recreation. One common dock exists but future docks will be restricted. Going forward, no more than 5 houses could ever be built on the property.


(c) 2023 The Island Packet

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